Deval Patrick H’17 stresses to Class of 2022: ‘You are enough’
Topics of democracy and resilience were among the major themes of the 2022 ceremony.
The sweltering May heat of the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center did not deter the Class of 2022’s enthusiasm for being the first in-person Commencement ceremony since 2019.
Along with faculty awards and speeches from varying members of the community, former governor of Massachusetts, Deval Patrick H’17, delivered the commencement address. Patrick’s speech focused on democracy and citizenship, drawing on his experiences from growing up on the South Side of Chicago, and explaining that though democracy aided his success story, “the American Dream itself is in jeopardy.”
Patrick implored undergraduates to “have strong conviction alongside humility” as citizens in a democracy which so often feels as if it’s falling apart. “The moment is now,” he declared. “And you are enough,” emphasizing that in a working democracy, each individual vote has an impact.
Patrick grew up on welfare, living in his grandmother’s house while sharing a bunk bed with his mother. He recalled not owning a book of his very own until the age of 14 when he “got his break” going to a boarding school in Boston. He asserted that the trajectory of his life was “not defined or limited by my circumstances of birth.”
However, while the American Dream helped Patrick achieve his dreams, he stressed that this kind of narrative is becoming more and more of a rarity. This kind of story is no longer as commonly heard, he said, “but it was once told more often in this country than any other place on this earth.” He continued, “this is an American story. The American dream is further and further out of reach for more and more Americans.”
Patrick urged students to “make your citizenship personal,” and stressed that “citizenship is an act. A thing you do. Not just a thing you are.” He placed a large emphasis on the importance of not just registering to vote, not even just voting, but ensuring that your vote is counted. He urged the audience to get their peers to vote, even those they disagree with. Patrick emphasized again to the graduates that “you are enough,” enough to make a difference, even with a singular vote.
Patrick argued that today’s political climate treats our democracy “as if it could tolerate limitless abuse without breaking.” Patrick drew on varying examples such as gerrymandering, the “undemocratic” filibuster, current issues in the Supreme Court’s functioning, and voter suppression. He declared that “substance, integrity, duty and honor seem always secondary” and blamed our leaders for focusing on the “next election or news cycle or the next poll instead of the next generation.”
Although these graduates are entering an imperfect society with many challenges, they have the ability to overcome these roadblocks and nevertheless succeed, a theme echoed by undergraduate speaker Haley Brown ’22. Brown spoke about growing up with connections to and around Brandeis throughout her childhood. Despite the familiarity with the Brandeis community, she could have never predicted that her Brandeis experience would play out the way it did.
She stressed that the entire class of 2022 had to face the unexpected, both in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic and otherwise, but that “the unexpected is nothing more than an opportunity.” She emphasized the unity of their class; that “we got through these four years together despite feeling like the world sometimes wanted to tear us apart.”
Apthi Harish, who received her Master’s of Science in Finance from the International Business School, gave the graduate student address. She spoke highly of her time at the University: “Brandeis gives me a chance to fail but not feel like that defines me,” she said. Harish appreciated being on a campus where students are not afraid to be their unique selves, and in the same breath stated that “inclusivity is not just a word it’s the very fabric of our community.”
The ceremony began at 10:30 a.m. on May 2, starting with University President Ron Liebowitz addressing the graduating class and their guests. He applauded the students for arriving “at this day through persistence, determination, and resilience.” Honorary degree recipients David Harris and Christine Mann Darden were honored, with a speech from Harris, though Darden was not in attendance.
Lizzie Hillard ’22 sang the national anthem, and the Brandeis Chamber Choir and Brandeis Orchestra performed pieces throughout the ceremony, including Brandeis’ Alma Mater. Additional speakers included University Senior Chaplain Rabbi Seth Winberg, who gave the opening remarks, and Anjum Biswas, the Hindu and Dharmic Chaplain, who gave the closing remarks.
Diploma ceremonies were held over the course of the weekend, divided by major, but undergraduates did not walk the stage to accept their diplomas at the official ceremony. Inviting the students to stand, Dean of Arts and Sciences Dorothy Hodgson officially introduced the undergraduates from the School of Arts and Sciences to join the ranks of those who have graduated from Brandeis. As the Class of 2022 streamed out of the ceremony, they joined Brandeis’ alumni network of over 60,000.